November/December 2011
Volume 31 No. 6

November/December 2011
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My Two Cents

Allow me to explain why print media will survive the test of time. I'll do so with two personal anecdotes. Years ago, before launching VideoAge, I was the International Editor of Television/RadioAge, one of the first U.S. trade publications for the entertainment industry, created in New York City by the legendary Sol J. Paul in 1953 and closed in 1989.

The publication came out twice a month (a biweekly, which is often confused with a bimonthly, which comes out every other month), and competed with the weekly Variety in New York, Broadcasting in Washington D.C., AdvertisingAge in Chicago, and the daily The Hollywood Reporter in Los Angeles.

TV/RadioAge was considered the "bible" of the radio and television industry. It covered every single aspect of the various sectors, including advertising, spot sales, national sales, production, ratings, legislature, syndication, trade shows, international television and more — over 20 sectors, each with many topics to cover. Plus, Paul insisted that every article had to be detailed. This resulted in a publication that averaged 180 pages per issue. It was literally the size of a bible! Yes, everything was there — the magazine contained every single bit of information, but was too heavy to carry, and too time-consuming to read.

It was around 1979 that I reported to Paul that the entertainment executives whom he'd sent me to interview in their offices had copies of TV/RadioAge piled up on their desks, each with several bookmarks indicating important stories to read when the time allowed.

The problem — I was told — was that the extra time never came and other important news overlapped, resulting in an old pile of copies of TV/RadioAge that was quickly disposed of — with only a few of the hundreds of published articles actually read — and replaced with a new pile.

Just about that time, a new weekly publication was launched from New York and Chicago: Electronic Media,* published by the folks at AdvertisingAge. EM was a skinny, tabloid-format (VideoAge's size) trade that used to make Paul chuckle for its superficiality. But what Paul did not understand was that, just by scanning EM's headlines and reading a few paragraphs, executives could gather the most important news of the week. Granted, the EM journalists did not know the industry as well as those at TV/RadioAge, but the EM editors were smart enough to show busy readers that their publication contained the few essential news stories.

Now on to the second anecdote. Earlier this year, VideoAge was approached by the promotion executives at Argentina's Telefilms to explore the possibility of reporting on their 50th anniversary. We promptly offered a series of online features that were just as promptly rejected in favor of a print report (which goes online anyway).

And this is the essence of why print media will resist a Web tsunami. Not only is an online report perceived as having less commercial value than a printed one, but the Web has now become a sort of TV/RadioAge of the Internet: Too much information to digest, too time-consuming to read, too confusing to follow, too fast-changing to appreciate and too cheap to value.
On the other hand, when you have a print copy of VideoAge (or any other similarly informative trade) in your hand, you can be assured that those few, short printed stories will give you a picture of what is most important. We never abuse your time or make our publication difficult to read or carry, and, at trade shows, we publish dailies that require even less time to scan.
Nowadays, time is a commodity: Costly, hard to come by and difficult to manage. This is why a Web-style TV/RadioAge will not — at least in the short run — replace a print EM-style publication.

* If you're wondering why EM eventually closed, the answer is twofold: First, their advertising universe fell with deregulation, consolidation and the resulting elimination of the syndication market in the U.S., and, second, the publication was never able to expand internationally.

Dom Serafini